My favourite anime of all-time is currently Infinite Stratos. Yes, that means shows like Dragon Ball Z, Hellsing and many other very popular shows (I don’t watch the major ones like Naruto, Bleach, Attack on Titan, etc.) are behind a harem anime with mechs. So sue me.
Like I said in my article Tuesday, I love harem anime, but not just because of the ecchi content. IS encompasses all the things I love in anime and then does something no other show has done to the same quality thus far.
The concept is pretty straightforward for a harem anime. The IS Academy houses young girls from all over the world who have the capability to pilot an IS unit. Ichika Orimura however mysteriously becomes the first male to ever be able to pilot a unit and thus becomes the classic one guy in a massive group of girls. And yes, he is pretty much completely clueless that essentially every girl in the entire campus (maybe even counting the instructors, yes that includes his sister, Chifuyu) wants him. The two seasons so far (if there’s ever a third) are largely episodes split into thirds. One-third action, one-third serious story time and one-third comedy/ecchi. And the show does all three well.
For starters, the action sequences in the entire series are phenomenal. They come off very much like some of the best Gundam action you can get, except there’s no need for shots of the pilot inside the mech as in Infinite Stratos, the mech doesn’t cover up their head and for some, their hips (gotta get a little butt action apparently). There really isn’t a battle that I didn’t enjoy watching, they’re done very well and each major strike has a purpose. I can imagine anyone enjoying this series’ action scenes if some weren’t thrown off by the half-naked girls.
The story itself is also very good outside of the main girls trying to gain Ichika’s affection. The first season ended a little abruptly, but the second season gained a lot of steam, having legitimate villains around that time. Some would say the story is a little under-developed, but keep in mind a large focus of a harem anime is usually the relationships, so there’s only so much time to work with and IS does a pretty good job of working with what they’ve got.
Finally, of course the ecchi content is just as phenomenal as well. Unless I’ve forgotten, they don’t resort to the usual cliché ecchi anime likes to do, which is have girls grope each other. Instead they get a little more creative (no matter how ridiculous it may be) with some of their scenes. Of course, the “shocking” (cause you couldn’t call it a mile away) reveal in the shower that Charles is actually a Charlotte is a very sudden and perfectly drawn/animated scene. My personal favourite though is Ichika waking up the following morning after Laura claimed him as her “bride” and finds her naked in his bed. When he tries to flee, she captures him in an armbar (which only works for her when you’re nigh flat-chested) and blushes as she offers to be his training partner, cause of course a 15 year-old female Spetsnaz-similarly trained soldier would blush thinking about that. There’s tons of adorable moments, like in Season 2 when Houki goes down the couple slide with Ichika. There’s a mixture of cute, beautiful and downright sexy throughout the series and whenever it takes place, it works well with that respective character.
Which brings me to my favourite thing about the series.
The one thing that Infinite Stratos does that I never expected to do be as well as I would have ever expected, is the English dubbing of the series and its various accents they use with the girls. Granted if the character is Asian, they get normal American voices. But Charlotte (French), Cecilia (British) and Laura (German) all have very distinct accents that don’t sound like over-exaggerations and are done almost perfectly, capturing their nationality very well. Most English dubs just aren’t that great, so when you try to employ accents into the dub as well, you’re almost asking for trouble. But IS not only doesn’t fail the English voicing, but the accents are great as well, they really do enhance their respective characters.
So yeah, if you can get past harem anime and you haven’t given Infinite Stratos a check, I suggest you do so!